The Berkshire Eagle  reports local and state lawmakers and public school leaders are lauding a $1.5 billion overhaul of how Massachusetts funds public education.

House and Senate leaders Thursday rolled out the long-awaited, seven-year plan expected to hit the Senate floor for debate in two weeks.

If the Legislature approves the bill and Gov. Charlie Baker signs it, the first year of added funding would show up in fiscal 2021 school budgets.

The bill, dubbed the Student Opportunity Act and unanimously endorsed by the Legislature's Joint Committee on Education, would increase Chapter 70 aid to local schools by $1.4 billion. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the funding boost does not involve plans for additional taxes.

The bill uses Group Insurance Commission data to estimate districts' employee and retiree health care costs, and increases special education enrollment and cost assumptions. Furthermore, the legislation boosts funding for English language learners and differentiates that money by grade level, with more for older students.

This is not the first time lawmakers have tried to overhaul the formula. In each of the past two legislative sessions, House and Senate Democrats have been unable to agree on an approach to school finance reform. Hinds said the difference this time is that legislative leaders in both chambers jointly worked on the bill from the start, rather than starting with separate bills in the House and Senate.

 

The bill is penciled in for a Senate vote Oct. 3, with a House vote expected "shortly thereafter," Lewis said.